1. Defending the option: Don’t look now, USC defense, but another variation of an option offense is on the way. After giving up big numbers against spread option teams in 2012 – most notably 730 total yards and 61 points against Oregon – the Trojans now must contend with the “flexbone” triple option attack from Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets won’t be throwing the ball as much as some of the other offenses that USC has faced, but the Yellow Jackets are very good at running the ball, currently No. 4 in the nation at more than 312 yards per game. The Trojans will be looking to play well in the final game under defensive coach Monte Kiffin, who has announced his resignation following the bowl game.
2. Moving on with Max: With the news that Matt Barkley will not be able to play in the game because of an injured shoulder, it means that redshirt freshman Max Wittek will get his second start at quarterback for the Trojans. Wittek showed a strong arm in his starting debut against Notre Dame and this game will be a big opportunity for him to cement his spot as Barkley’s full-time replacement in 2013. It could also be a chance for Lane Kiffin to get some reps for Cody Kessler in game conditions.
3. Explosive plays: It will be important for the Trojans to take advantage of their big-play capabilities on offense, but a lot could depend on the health of a few key USC players. Wide receiver Marqise Lee – the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner – and tailback Curtis McNeal both battled injuries in the days leading up to the bowl game and their status is uncertain. Lee is perhaps the most dynamic player in college football; he averaged more than 40 yards per play on his 15 touchdowns this season, and McNeal had a pair of 160-yard rushing games late in the season. The good news for the Trojans is that they have other options available; Robert Woods is the all-time USC receptions leader and Silas Redd was the leading USC rusher in 2012.